|by Bruce Hymers (& Nicolas Stephanou),
By popular demand, I have translated the following article by Nicolas Stephanou, President of PAWS, published in the April issue of “Parion Fos”.
Descartes’ statement, “I think, therefore I am”, the foundation of all modern philosophy and enlightenment, has often been interpreted as a denial of an animal’s ability to feel anything or have its own interests. As was pointed out by one of his scholars, Descartes had no such views concerning animals. In any event, no one claims that the cruelty to animals present in our country stems from our Cartesianism, so we will leave our good philosopher here and deal in this article with the causes of cruelty to the animals on our island, clarify what is “zoophilia” (literally “friendship to animals”, or, as we know it, animal welfare) and make comparisons with other countries.
Animal welfare first became an issue during the industrial revolution with the urbanization of large sections of the population, who away from the rigours of livestock farming, developed a popular sentiment for animals. The first ever law against the needless torture of cattle and sheep was passed by the British parliament in 1822, unsurprisingly in Britain, as this was one of the first countries to develop industrially.
In 1970 the Farm Animal Welfare Council published a five point directive called The Five Freedoms, aimed at animals in the care of individuals, e.g. livestock, working animals and pets. They are:
1. Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and strength.
2. Freedom from discomfort - by providing a suitable environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to express normal behaviour for the species - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animals own kind.
5. Freedom from fear and distress - by ensuring conditions that avoid mental suffering.
Humanist “zoophilia” includes the belief that animals under human care should not suffer without reason and focuses on the ethics of action and inaction, without making deeper philosophical claims regarding the rights of animals, often associated with more radical social movements. Certain countries have revised the status of their animals; in 1992, Switzerland officially announced animals as “beings”, as opposed to “things” and Germany in 2002, added the protection of animals to its constitution.
PAWS remains focused on the morality of human action (or inaction) and advocates that cruelty to animals is a reliable predictor of other moral weaknesses and risk factors, thus warranting intervention.
To come back to our own reality, we need to realize that in about thirty five years, Paros has developed very rapidly from an agricultural community to a consumer economy and that before this, the hardship of subsistence living left little room for sentimentality regarding animals. However, a heightened sensitivity is evident among the first and even more among the second generation of urbanized Parians. Of course there is still a long way before animals in Paros enjoy the aforementioned five freedoms and we stop seeing creatures with tied-up legs desperately trying to keep their balance or dogs forgotten on a short chain. Still in its infancy, the newly-embraced “zoofilia” seems to be responsible for the ever-increasing population of street cats and dogs, thus being unable to guarantee the five freedoms. The solution to this is sterilization and the comprehension of owners that it is their responsibility and obligation to the community to ensure this is done.
While Nicolas puts the pressure on in the Greek press, the rest of us are gathering voter’s details who are willing to state that the welfare of animals is one of their concerns. I had a surprisingly good response to last month’s request for names, but would like to make the list as long as possible.
I promised last month to have the views on these matters from all the candidates for the local election but will not have this information until next month. In the meantime, if you have registered please let us know. We do not wish to influence your voting, simply to inform candidates that there are people who could be swayed by their policies regarding animal welfare.